Thursday, October 11, 2012

Religion and Education Should Both Be Separate From the State

The first paragraph of my recent post at The Objective Standard blog, Separation of State from Religion--and Education--are Corollary Principles of the Right, reads:

Slate’s Amanda Marcotte complained that a new Florida law attempts “to get around the spirit” of the 1962 Supreme Court decision Engel v. Vitale that banned government-sponsored prayer in public schools as an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

In her article, Marcotte alternately blames the enactment of this law on “the long-standing conservative temper tantrum over the 1962 decision” and “the now 50-year-long fit the right has thrown over this.”

But, constitutional questions regarding voluntary student group activities on public property aside,  Marcotte is wrong to equate conservatives with the political right (emphasis added).

As Craig Biddle explains, “The political right properly belongs to those who uphold the principle of [individual] rights [and] a government that protects and does not violate rights.” Conservatives, however, are not committed defenders of individual rights. As Biddle observes, conservatives support rights violations in many areas, including government-enforced religious values and government-run schools.

But Marcotte’s complaint rings hollow if she also supports government-run schools, which she undoubtedly does, being--as Time Magazine notes--“an outspoken voice of the left.”
Religion is about one’s personal beliefs and ideas. But so is education. People have differing views on educational philosophy, curriculum, teaching methods, the cognitive needs of the child, the role of religion in education, and so on. If Christians have no right to “push their religious views”  on others, why doesn't the same principle hold true regarding educational views?   Why should Christians (or adherents of any religion) be forced to pay for schools that forbid the organized prayer sessions that they believe should form an integral part of their children’s education?  Likewise, just as no one should have to pay for the religious education of other people’s children (e.g., Sunday school), neither should anyone have to pay for the secular education of other people’s children. It works both ways.

Tax-funded schools are just as wrong as tax-funded churches, synagogues, or mosques.

Like a whole raft of political controversies including teacher accountability, tenure, and coercive teachers union practices, the smoldering school prayer conflict is tied to our failure to recognize the essential similarities regarding the relationship of government to religion and education.

Freedom of religion and freedom of education go hand in hand, and the First Amendment should be amended to read; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or of education, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

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